Looking for a special guest for your school news show? Put the spotlight on Makey Makey! By creating a week-long special feature, student newscasters can demonstrate how Makey Makey works...and doesn’t work! After three days of conductive successes and one day of an insulating “fail,” the last show serves as the “big reveal” to explain the science behind everyone’s favorite invention kit. It’s sure to razzle dazzle ‘em!
For our school’s news show, Librarian Meredith Reid and I facilitated a five-day special feature about Makey Makey. Two news anchors made use of Makey Makey to advance the news team’s PowerPoint slides that are shown during broadcast. For five consecutive days, news anchors interacted with Makey Makey on the news show. Each day for three days, a new conductor was introduced. On the fourth day, an insulator was used. On the fifth day, a brief explanation of circuits and a final Makey Makey demonstration capped off this physical computing special feature. It was a newsworthy experience!
Assuming that you already have a school newsroom and a news show laptop to use, there is a short list of additional items for the Makey Makey special feature:
- 1 very long mini-USB cable (10 ft. or so; exact length depends on the distance from the news show laptop to the anchors’ desk)
- 1 Makey Makey
- 2 alligator clips
- 1 square piece of cardboard covered with tinfoil to serve as a hand rest for grounding
- a PowerPoint (or other presentation software) slide with a few extra photos or illustrations
- 1 plant
- 1 canister of playdough
- 1 banana
- 1 stuffed animal
- 1 rubber door stop (optional; used to prop up and tilt the Makey Makey so that it is more visible on camera)
- Package sealing tape (to hold down the mini-USB cable so that the Makey Makey stays put)
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Step 1: Make a Plan
Determine how Makey Makey will be introduced, used, and explained over the course of the week. This was our plan:
Monday: Introduce Makey Makey and use a plant as the switch. When closed, the circuit will make the PowerPoint advance to show a picture of a monkey holding a Makey Makey. Marvel, but do not explain how Makey Makey works.
Tuesday: Express wonderings about other items that might work with Makey Makey. Test out a canister of playdough. The slideshow should advance to show a slide with another animal on it.
Wednesday: State an assumption that the new item, a banana, will work with Makey Makey based on the success of the previous days. Show a dancing dog gif when the circuit is closed.
Thursday: Reiterate the assumption that the new item, a stuffed animal, will work with Makey Makey again based on the success of the previous days. Express dismay when the experiment fails. Articulate hypotheses about why it did not function as expected.
Friday: Provide a description of circuits along with illustrations of closed and open circuits. Explain that plants, playdough, and bananas are all conductors, while a stuffed animal is usually an insulator. Add that there are other things that are conductors, such as humans. The two anchors demonstrate by giving each other a high five. The slide advances to the image of a twirling Makey Makey.
Step 2: Write the Scripts
Create five chatty scripts appropriate for the audience’s age range.
Here is an example for Monday:
Anchor 1: This week we are going to be learning how Makey Makey works.
Anchor 2: Do you think that just by touching this plant I can make a monkey appear?
Anchor 1: No, that does not seem like something a plant could do.
Anchor 2: Well, let’s test it out. But first I’m going to touch the tinfoil to ground myself. Cameraperson, can you help me out with a side-by-side screen? Great, thank you. Here I go!
Anchor 1: Oh my gosh, it actually worked. You, Makey Makey, and the plant made a monkey appear!
Anchor 2: That’s right. And tomorrow I’ll be back with something else. Do you think that playdough will work?
Anchor 1: Tune in tomorrow to see!
Here is an example for Friday:
Anchor 1: This week we have been showing you what Makey Makey can do. Today we are going to explain how it works.
Anchor 2: Makey Makey is based on a simple concept – circuits! Let’s take a look at a diagram. A closed circuit is a continuous loop through which electricity can flow.
Anchor 1: The diagram shows a closed circuit. When it’s closed, the electricity flows.
Anchor 2: Let’s take a look at our Makey Makey. First, we’ve connected Makey Makey to the laptop with this long cable. The cable gives it power.
Anchor 1: We’ve also connected these two wires, also known as “alligator clips,” to the Makey Makey.
Anchor 2: Wait, but we haven’t connected them to anything so it’s an open circuit.
Anchor 1: That’s right! So no electricity will flow.
Anchor 2: In order for it to work correctly, we need a conductor that will act like a switch and allow the electricity to flow.
Anchor 1: We used conductors this week: the plant, some playdough, and a banana all worked.
Anchor 2: But the stuffed animal didn’t work.
Anchor 1: Stuffed animals are not conductors, they are insulators.
Anchor 2: I wonder if humans are conductors or insulators.
Anchor 1: Well, let’s test it out by giving a high five. If we both touch the alligator clips and high five with our other hands, we will have a closed circuit. Right?
Anchor 2: Ok, that sounds like it will work because the high five closes the circuit. But is it safe?
Anchor 1: Yes! Makey Makey is designed to be safe in this way.
Anchor 2: Ok, I’m touching the alligator clip. You need to touch the other alligator clip.
Anchor 1: When we high five what will happen?
Anchor 2: Well, we obviously need a side-by-side. Cameraperson, help us out. When we give a high five we will make Makey Makey spin.
Anchor 1: Here we go! (high five)
Anchor 2: It worked! We made a closed circuit. Humans are conductors! So plants, playdough, bananas, and people are all conductors.
Anchor 1: We hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s lesson on Makey Makey.
Step 3: Set Up for Day 1
Place the Makey Makey on the anchors’ desk, and prop it up with the door stop. Loosely tape the cable to the front of the anchors’ desk. Place the plant and tinfoil hand rest on either side of the Makey Makey. Connect the Makey Makey to the mini-USB cable. Clip one alligator clip on Earth contact point, and the other alligator clip on Right Arrow. Launch PowerPoint on the news show laptop, open the day’s slideshow, and test out the Makey Makey to see if the slide advances.
Step 4: Broadcast, Then Repeat Four Times!
Run the show for four more days, assuming you are able to continue the special feature over the course of a week. Repeat the Makey Makey special feature with variations on each of the four remaining days.
Step 5: Answer Students’ Questions and Provide More Opportunities to Interact With Makey Makey
Be prepared to get stopped in the hallway to answer questions about Makey Makey! In addition to providing some answers and resources, promise to give the students opportunities to try it out for themselves. Then follow up on your promise. Finally, enjoy the newfound demand for Makey Makey integrated lessons in classrooms throughout the building. Check out the Instructables Teacher Makey Makey lessons for lots of ideas!
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